Pando

A Pando update: We're finally profitable -- but it hasn't been easy

By Sarah Lacy and Paul Bradley Carr , written on December 18, 2015

From The Inside Baseball Desk

Back in June, we launched our $10-a-month membership program.

As we explained at the time, it’s critical -- now more than ever -- that there are more, not fewer, fully independent voices covering the tech industry. We are determined to avoid the fate suffered by seemingly every other tech publication: Forced to shut down or sell to a corporate owner. We also don’t want to raise any more venture capital, given that would almost certainly mean giving a venture capitalist a seat on our board, something we have avoided so far.

Our target -- then and now -- is to reach 5,000 paid members. Hitting that target means readers are covering the entire cost of running our newsroom. Combined with advertising and event revenue, it will also mean Pando Media, as a company, is fully profitable.

Profitability doesn’t just mean controlling our own destiny and safeguarding our independence, it also means we won’t have to make any more cuts to our editorial team and can, in fact, start hiring more reporters. It will also allow us to bulk up our legal defence war chest -- an important protection given, to date, we’ve been threatened with a little over $300m -- million! -- in lawsuits from people who want to silence us. (We always defend against legal threats to our reporting and have never lost, or settled, a lawsuit.) Profitability means that no matter who we write about, how highly they are valued, or how powerful they are, as long as we get the story right, we stay in business.

As we reach the end of the year, this seems like a good time for another update on how we’re doing.

First the good news: Just six months after launching memberships, our member count currently stands close to 4,000 and is continuing to grow fast. We have also sold just over half of the slots on our Pando Patron page -- a way for super-supporters to help us reach our membership target far quicker, while showing their support for independent journalism.

And yet, 4,000 is still -- obviously -- shy of our 5,000 member target. With the ad market continuing to contract, and 2016 looking to be a difficult year for the entire industry, we know we need to do everything we can to get to profitability, the sooner the better.

To get us over that final hump, we announced our "Profitability or Bust" campaign, including a 24-hour membership drive, gift subscriptions and more. Unfortunately that wasn't quite enough. Earlier this month we also made the heartbreaking decision (although, in truth, we really didn't have much choice in the matter) to lay off a small number of employees across editorial, art, and events. Every layoff is not just devastating, to everyone involved, but also hugely frustrating. There are so many important stories to cover, and we’re already stretched paper-thin.  

As a result, though, we were actually profitable in November and, based on current projections, will continue to be (modestly!) profitable on a monthly basis throughout 2016. Absent any unforeseen disasters, and if memberships continue to grow at their current level, we won’t have to make any more cuts and, early next year, can begin staffing up our newsroom again.

If it weren’t for the fact that we’ve had to lay off some great people to get to this point, this would be a cause for celebration. Reaching profitability is a huge deal, and something we couldn’t have achieved without the support of our thousands of members. It’s also no exaggeration to say that every new Pando membership gets us a step closer to hiring our next reporter (and hiring back some of those we’ve had to lose), or breaking our next big story.

Still, for all the pain it’s taken to get here, we made it through 2015 alive. Better still, we’re entering 2016 profitable and with our membership base continuing to grow at an unrelenting clip. For those who wish we’d hurry up and die already -- you know who you are -- this will likely come as very bad news. Now that we’re profitable, there’s no getting rid of us. Sorry. We're going to keep doing what we do for as long as members continue to pay us to do it. 


For those who have supported us, and continue to do so, as readers, as members, as Pando Patrons, as advertisers: Thank you. From the bottom of our hearts. We promise to continue working our asses off in the coming year to earn that support.  

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